Interlude

A year or so later, life is going on. Two moments, one from light and one from shadow. Drama, I-3, MANGA CONTINUITY, spoiler iss 32

"Hah! Take that!"

The screen flashed with colorful explosions and Akira tossed his controller down in disgust. "You’re even a demon in games."

Aya sniffed. "You just don’t have the concentration for it. Come on Kengo, your turn to be trounced!"

Akira grumbled but sprawled over Kengo’s bed while Kengo grabbed the second controller, grinning.

"Speaking of concentration," Aya turned to look up at him while Kengo chose his character, "shouldn’t you be studying anyway? I mean, you’re the one who’s going to take the university entrance exams."

"Ah, I’ll be fine." Akira stretched out. "I never have to study."

"It’s true," Kengo put in, looking woeful.

Aya just shook her head. "Your problem if you fail, not mine. Finally," she added under her breath.

"Better that than having to do dojo stuff like you. Your grandpa is one scary old man."

Aya’s grin flashed. "Yep." Her expression turned thoughtful and she nudged Kengo. "Hey. Have you decided yet?"

"Once a prefect, always a prefect," Akira muttered while Kengo smiled cheerfully.

"Nee-san said I’d like sales better than manufacturing, so I guess it’s going to be Japan Toys."

Aya smiled back, looking remarkably sweet for someone who was about to make a career out of terrorizing her students with a shinai. "You’ll be good at that." She elbowed Akira. "Not like Mr. Aloof over here. It’s a good thing you want to do programming, Akira, because you sure couldn’t deal with people for a living. You could stand to learn a few things from Kengo."

"Like what, how to fetch?" He held up his hands as Aya started to get a dangerous glint in her eye. "Yeah, yeah, fine, people skills, whatever."

Aya snorted and turned back to the game with a little huff and Akira grinned, knowing he’d bought himself another round of teasing as soon as she saw the opportunity. Aya was as reliable as Kengo that way.

He’d have to make sure university left time to visit his friends.


Lulu made a satisfied sound as she finally found Shirogane-sama, reading, in the fifth room she checked. She slipped in and quietly set a cup of coffee beside his chair.

"There’s no need to be so attentive," he told her, not looking up which was no surprise.

"I like to."

Now he looked up. "And is this supposed to convince me to trust someone who cheerfully betrayed her first master?"

A corner of Lulu’s mouth tucked up. "Yes." She laughed at the way his eyes narrowed and curled up at his feet, leaning against the seat of his chair. "I hold to my duty. Always. Doesn’t that prove that I’m the right kind of person to serve you?"

"You seemed satisfied enough with Homurabi until he threatened you personally."

She shrugged off the sharpness of his gaze. "If I wanted to be shin, if I wanted to follow my affiliation, I didn’t have much choice. And I came to you when I could." She looked up at him, serious. "When I understood which duty was higher. You see," her lips curled, "it wasn’t really switching sides at all."

He eyed her with both brows lifted.

"I’m shin," she murmured, leaning against his knees. "You’re the direct king of shadow. Whoever my master is, ultimately I serve you. And now you’re my master as well."

"Mm." His eyes on her were considering, still wary but no longer entirely shuttered. It was a start. She smiled.

"So drink your coffee and get back to your book." She rolled up to her knees and paused. Maybe…

She reached for his left hand and lifted it and touched her lips delicately to the back, where his mark was. She couldn’t hold herself completely steady through the jolt of that contact and her voice was husky as she added, "My king."

His fingers uncurled at that and his sigh stirred her hair. He drew his hand away and touched her bent head. "I suppose so."

She nodded and rose and slipped out silently.

She didn’t grin with triumph until she was two halls away. Now if they could just get a few more shin around here, she’d have things back on track in no time at all. She just hoped "no time at all" would be before Akira completely ceased to be Shirogane-sama’s shin.

Hunger and fear together had both driven Shirogane-sama to make Akira shin; it was just luck that Akira had the strength to bear the weight of both. She didn’t trust that luck would make Shirogane-sama’s next Child that strong.

End